Whether you intended your sweet girl to get pregnant or not, birthing is a stressful time and you should be prepared for possible delivery problems to keep mom and puppies safe. Know what’s normal and what should warrant a call to City Dog Vet or other urgent care clinic.
What kinds of situations can create problems in giving birth?
- First time mothers
- Unknown fathers
- Known larger father
- If the male is significantly larger than the mother, pups may be too large to pass
- Little breed dogs with no prenatal care and supplements
- Dogs with prior history of pelvic injuries or fractures
What can happen?
- Puppies can be too large to pass through the birth canal
- Litters can be too small to cause the mother’s uterus to begin delivery
- Uterus can become exhausted and unable to push
- Small breed dogs can deplete their resources, notably calcium and sugar, leading to problems like eclampsia or hypoglycemia
When do I need veterinary intervention?
- If mom is pacing, panting and restless for more than 12-18 hours
- If mom is actively pushing without production for more than 2-3 hours
- If you can see a protruding pup or amniotic sac that doesn’t change in 30-60 minutes
- If mom appears exhausted, becomes non responsive, or develops things like elevated temperature, vigorous panting or tremors
- If there is excessive bleeding; tissues may have torn
- If it is more than a few days past expected delivery date
- You detect a bad odor or see pus
- Continued tremors, panting or seizuring (signs of eclampsia)
What will my vet do?
- For many dogs, simple blood tests and imaging are the main diagnostics needed to determine what’s wrong and the best treatment
- If bloodwork identifies deficiencies in calcium and/or blood sugar, replacement therapy will be part of the plan
- Imaging helps determine the number of puppies and whether or not they can pass through the birth canal. Radiographs (x-rays) have some advantages (easier to count puppies and compare puppy and birth canal sizes). Ultrasound is helpful in determining whether puppies are alive or if there are other problems in the uterus or abdomen. Both may be necessary.
- In many cases, inducing labor can be started if puppy size does not appear to be a problem and deficiencies in calcium/blood sugar are not present or have been resolved. This may involve injections of oxytocin.
Surgery (a C-section, or Cesarean section) is usually recommended when the puppies are too large to pass, when there is an infection present, or sometimes by choice if the mother has known issues in the past. Scheduled C-sections have less complications than emergency ones. If mom has had repeated problems birthing or was not intended to be bred, an ovariohysterectomy (spay) can be done to prevent further litters.
How can I prevent problems?
- Spay (females) and neuter (males) before they reach breeding age, usually about 6 months
- If you breed, carefully select both parents
- Know the breeding date
- Arrange a veterinary exam during pregnancy for radiographs or ultrasound to determine the number of puppies
- Feed an optimal diet, often with calcium supplementation for small dogs (ask us!)
City Dog Vets are here to help make tough situations as easy as possible for you and your dog.
Prevention is the best medicine. Even if we can’t prevent every undesired pregnancy, we can help prevent complications that your dog may face. Give us a call.